Samsung announced its Connect Home mesh WiFi and smart home hub product alongside the new Galaxy S8 phones in March, but didn’t provide pricing or availability, something it’s now done. It will go on sale on Sunday at Best Buy and then become available more broadly in mid July, and will cost $170 for a single unit and three for $380, with a higher-throughput Pro version available for $250 per unit. The pricing is comparable with the many mesh WiFi solutions that have emerged in recent years, but the big difference is the SmartThings integration, which would normally involve a separate purchase. I’ll wait until reviews are available to judge it beyond that, but as I mentioned in the comment linked above back in March, it’s good to see Samsung finally starting to tie together its SmartThings and smartphone businesses, and I look forward to seeing whether that helps SmartThings get more traction in the market. The pure mesh WiFi space is certainly crowded enough already.
Facebook Expands Paid WiFi Access Product to India (May 4, 2017)
Comcast invests in Plume, a Wi-Fi wall plug startup – Axios (Apr 11, 2017)
This is an interesting investment for Comcast, which already has a big focus on WiFi, as evidenced by its Xfinity Mobile launch last week. Its home broadband routers double as WiFi hotspots for other Comcast customers, and it’s been investing in home automation technology too. So investing in Plume, which offers a service-based approach to WiFi, is a logical next step. Smart home systems are increasingly going to require management and control over the WiFi and other networks in the home for quality and security purposes, so going deeper into WiFi technology and management is going to be important for companies like Comcast that want a role there. The other intriguing part of this is that Plume has been working on a model where it would charge a monthly fee for that WiFi management service, something I could see Comcast doing in time either separately or as part of a smart home service. Yet more evidence, though, that the future mainstream version of the smart home is likely to be service-based. (Incidentally, read this smart piece by Stacey Higginbotham for more on Plume)
What do you do if you have two separate hardware products for the home which are selling modestly but not fantastically and have some common elements? You combine them, of course, and so Google is apparently considering a future device which would bring the features of its Home and WiFi devices together in a single unit. That would lower the combined cost and depending on the price potentially also increase the attractiveness relative to either the standalone Home or WiFi devices as they exist today. Given that a single unit of either item today costs $129, it’s entirely feasible that Google could combine the two in a new unit that would still be price competitive with the Amazon Echo while offering a lot more functionality, so this is an interesting angle. But Google Home’s main challenges continue to be less about price and more about name recognition and distribution – the Echo captured the early interest in this space and quickly became the market, heavily leveraging Amazon’s retail distribution channel, while Google continues to struggle to get adoption for its version. Though this move may help spur sales, I don’t think it’s going to lead to the kind of step change Google needs to be a more meaningful competitor.
via The Information
Watch out, Wi-Fi systems! Comcast is transforming its Xfinity gateway to a smart digital home platform – CNET (Jan 4, 2017)
Two hot areas collide in this Comcast announcement – smart home and better whole-home WiFi. But that’s kind of the point here – better WiFi is increasingly important because a lot of smart home gear relies on it, and I’m coming to the conclusion that smart home gear will likely need to be tightly integrated into the home router/gateway, rather than piggybacking off a generic router. That puts companies like Comcast in a strong position, and it also means AT&T and others that currently use other connectivity will have to go deeper into home networking. Meanwhile, standalone off-the-shelf smart home gear makers will be increasingly isolated.